By Syune Arakelyan
American Armenian beauty Peggy Garabekian became known among Armenians when she represented her homeland, Armenia, at the Miss Asia USA 2015 and winning the title of Miss Congeniality. After a long break, Peggy returns to the beauty pageant stage representing Armenia at the Miss United Nations 2023, which will be held in Florida this December.
The 28-year-old beauty has shared her experience in her interview for ArmenՅԱՆs/Armenians.
Peggy, congratulations on becoming the Armenian representative at Miss United Nations 2023. It seems you’ve been far away from beauty pageants for years. Why did you decide to return? And how did your participation occur?
Thank you so much. After representing Armenia for Miss Asia USA 2015, I never took a break from the pageant world. Following my experience as a delegate, my career as a pageant coach, production manager, and assistant for various pageant productions began from 2016. I wanted to develop new viewpoints and understand the business aspect of staging successful pageant shows.
Simultaneously, I was continuing school. From 2015 until now, numerous reputable pageant productions contacted me to participate, but my education was my main priority during the time. After earning my degree, I recentered my focus on participating in pageants as a delegate once more. United Nations Pageants contacted me in 2021 to compete in India, however, COVID was still very much prevalent at the time and India had strict regulations prohibiting people from visiting the country. They got in touch with me once more in 2022 to participate in the Miss United Nations 2023 pageant, which will take place in Florida in December of this year.
What are you preparing for the contest? What phases will it hold?
I’ve been persistently working with my pageant coach, rehearsing with my talent coach, improving my physique, my communication skills, and how I present myself since the beginning of the year. There’s so much detailing that goes into preparing a delegate for a show; it’s truly multifaceted. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist; so when I have a competition coming up, I go into tunnel vision. In terms of the steps leading up to the show, I was interviewed after being selected by United Nations Pageants, where the producers learned more about who I am, what I do, and so forth. I was then a confirmed finalist for the pageant. All delegates will be assessed on their evening gown, national costume, high fashion wear, sportswear, and an interview with the judges on the day of the pageant show.
Please, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Iran, on December 27th, 1994, but I spent the majority of my early years growing up in India. I am proud to be of Armenian descent and to uphold my Christian beliefs, fundamental principles, morality, and way of life. In relation to my educational background, after receiving my Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, I enrolled in University of Southern California's doctoral program.
And how did your family happen to settle in the US?
My family knew a better life and greater opportunities awaited us in the United States. So, we traveled from Iran to India, where we lived for nearly 4 years, until we were granted entry to the states.
Are both of your parents Armenians?
Yes, my parents are Armenian.
And what do you think, do your Armenian looks help you in the pageant world?
I think I have prominent Armenian features, yes. Understandably, it’s difficult to categorize Armenians into a specific class of physical characteristics because we are a varied population with a wide range of captivating features. Nevertheless, there lies a sense of pride knowing that I share strong Armenian features. I definitely believe it helps since that sense of pride is accompanied by an entirely unique feeling of confidence that further motivates me to display my looks in pageantry.
When was the last time you’ve been to Armenia?
Unfortunately, I have not yet visited Armenia. I’m hoping that following my competition, I’ll be able to visit my motherland for the first time. I can’t imagine a more rewarding feeling than reconnecting with my roots after so many years of representing my country.
Do you speak or read in Armenian?
Yes, I’m fluent in Armenian. My parents instilled the significance of my culture and heritage in me from a young age. I accredit my reading and writing skills to my mother. After moving to the United States, I recall her holding Armenian reading and writing lessons after I finished my studies. I still have the handwritten lessons she prepared along with my Armenian workbooks, which are filled with these star stickers she would award me if I did an exceptional job. Looking back, these lessons were not only essential for a deeper knowledge of Armenian culture, but they are also some of my fondest childhood memories.
What do you do in life besides participating in beauty pageants?
With my experience as a delegate and a pageant production manager, I now serve as a well-educated business expert, mentor, and private adviser, providing delegates honest leadership, support, and encouragement for all aspects of competition. My life has always centered on philanthropic and humanitarian work, especially after my involvement in pageantry. From 2009 until 2019, I volunteered for Unified Young Armenians in ensuring the improvement of not only the Armenian community, but all other communities. Ultimately, my efforts and perseverance were successful, and from 2018 to 2019, I served as President of Unified Young Armenians. Through the organization, I helped propose, coordinate, and work with Glendale's City Council to rename a street sign, leading to the creation of Artsakh Avenue, the first street name associated with Armenians in Los Angeles.
Moreover, I was a key organizer of the Annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration March and Candlelight Vigil comprising of thousands of attendees honoring the victims of the Armenian Genocide. Throughout the years, I’ve effectively planned and collaborated with Children's Hospital Los Angeles in arranging toy, clothing, and blood drives. I contributed to telethons aiding Armenian American orphans and Disabled Children’s Fund. Additionally, I’ve participated in many clothing, food, toy, and winter drives for orphans, children, and struggling families in Armenia, as well as for homeless shelters in Los Angeles. Working alongside various organizations, I’ve actively contributed to fundraising efforts supporting the victims of Artsakh’s ongoing war. Through Miss Asia USA alone, I participated in events that promoted solutions to global problems, such as Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity and the 2015 Special Olympics Opening Ceremony to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual and physical disabilities. With my platform continuously growing, I take a more active role in philanthropic and humanitarian work.
I know that your participation in competitions happened when Virgelia Villegas (the president of the production of Miss Asia USA) discovered you while you were waiting for your food order. Have you been doing modeling before that?
I admire how you know that! No, I had no modeling experience prior to my start into pageantry. My modeling career skyrocketed during and following my involvement in pageantry. Over the course of my pageant career, I was offered opportunities to model for print, television, and runway, which ultimately led to my signing with reputable modeling agencies. It has completely changed my life.
What impact did this participation have on you?
Truthfully, the entire trajectory of my life changed once I stepped foot into the world of pageantry. My sash is not a depiction of a hobby, it’s no longer just about me. It’s imperative that I represent my Armenian values, culture, people, country, and most importantly, Christ, to the highest reputable height. With that said, my involvement in pageantry has further heightened my responsibilities and discipline, but I’ve never felt so much gratitude in my life.
Do beauties have any complexities regarding their looks? What about yours?
The notion of beauty differs from culture to another, and even from one person to the next within the same culture. So, beauty is very subjective. Growing up, I learned to utilize my distinct physical traits to my advantage, rather than mold myself into someone else in order to fit into ever-changing societal norms. For instance, I’ve always appreciated my darker features, height, and facial structure, and have worked hard to solidify and perfect my look throughout my life. In my experience, I’ve learned that if you truly put yourself to work and build on what you already have, you will not only discover a new sense of confidence, but you will also likely stand out because of your distinguishing traits.
What do you expect from the upcoming contest?
Aside from the competitive stages, I’m not sure what to anticipate. All I can do is place my faith in Christ and prepare myself to the best of my abilities. Pageantry sometimes holds the stereotype that the delegate who has the biggest gown, or the most beautiful features, etc. wins the crown. This time, I’m taking a different approach. I really want the judges and delegates to truly know who I am and what I stand for, not for what I’m wearing and how I look. This unravels a new challenge for me; but as long as I am true to myself, I’ll be happy with whatever follows. While it is still a competition, I still have fun as well! I meet so many likeminded incredible women in this industry who share similar values, so I’m expecting to make lifelong friends. I’m really excited!
Photos taken from Peggy's Facebook
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